In the “Pāteke survival guide

The precise feeding preferences of pāteke are poorly known but they will feed in the following habitats:

  • Fertile swamps that contain shallow open water and muddy areas that the birds can gain ready access to. They avoid areas choked with Mercer grass, kikuyu and other impenetrable vegetation.
  • Sluggish streams with backwashes, interconnecting other wetlands, streams with Potamopyrgus snails and high densities of insect larvae.
  • Wide drains and ditches that are accessible to pāteke and which have varying water levels, including much shallow water and muddy areas with sluggish flows. No dense vegetation within drains, but overhead and bankside cover is ideal. Easy access (gentle, unobstructed slopes) to surrounding feeding and loafing areas is beneficial.
  • Ponds containing some gentle-sloping, bare banks and offering some feeding opportunities at their edges and on peninsulas and islands. Overhead cover is also ideal for at least part of the ponds.
  • Improved, closely cropped, fertile pasture grazed by sheep or cattle, and supporting abundant invertebrates; permanently damp areas can be maintained through irrigation.
  • Estuaries—possibly frequented throughout wherever invertebrates are common, but are particularly seen feeding in areas with cockles, mudsnails, and other small bivalves and gastropods.
  • Swamp forest characterised by kahikatea, cabbage trees, Coprosma spp., kiekie, flax and raupō, with sluggish streams and muddy areas.

Common problems associated with feeding habitat and ways of overcoming them

Problem 1—rank grass

Issue—rank grass such as kikuyu and Mercer grass can form dense impenetrable mats within former feeding areas, e.g. swamps, drains, pasture.

  • Interim solutions—grazing, spraying and replanting densely to outcompete fastgrowing grasses, using weed matting around plants to keen grasses down. When spraying grasses on or near waterways use water-safe Glyphosate 510, Aquakynde penetrant and red marker dye at label rates.
  • Long term solutions—light grazing and/or shade trees: Mānuka and fruit trees (e.g. puriri, Coprosma) which provide the dual role of shading out grasses and providing food for ducks. Plant mānuka at 1 metre intervals or closer (one of few trees ideal for shading grass in permanently wet areas); can also include local fruiting species, e.g. Coprosma and large leafy trees;
  • Weed control guides:

Problem 2—unproductive pasture due to drying out and/or infertility

Issue—during prolonged dry periods, the food available in pasture and lawns may be limited and birds have to rely on wet areas.

  • Interim solutions—supplementary feeding, e.g. grains from feeders, irrigation, slowrelease fertiliser.
  • Long-term solutions—retaining moisture levels, e.g. adjustable weirs on drains with native fish access; restoration planting of upper catchments to ensure increased moisture retention and slower release in dry periods. Pasture fertility—seek advice regarding pasture management, e.g. fertilizer rates, re-seeding, grazing regime altered to avoid over-grazing in dry periods and excessive pugging in wet periods, alternative pasture species.
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